Setup L2TP IPSEC VPN on Ubuntu

Having an L2TP/IPSEC VPN comes in very handy if you have a Macbook, iOS device, or run Stock Android and want to be able to remotely access your network from on the road. L2TP over IPSEC is a better choice than PPTP which is now considered insecure. Plus L2TP/IPSEC is supported natively by those devices, so no additional client software would be needed unlike OpenVPN.

To get started, let’s imagine a small network that runs on a fairly standard private address range. This setup would be run on an internal Ubuntu Server that is networked to the internal network you wish to access. In this example, you only need 1 network card.

Forward Ports
Since the server resides on the internal network behind a router or firewall, you will need to forward certain ports to the server from your perimeter device for this to work.

You need to forward
UDP 500
UDP 4500
ESP Traffic (protocol 50)
AH Traffic (protocol 51)

ESP and AH are not ports, they are protocols. Most comsumer routers can’t forward these protocols, so you may be forced to use a “Forward All traffic” option to the internal server or use a “Internal DMZ Host” setup that can be found on many device. Test it out and find the best option that works for you.


Install IPSEC

sudo aptitude install openswan

Openswan is the package that provides the IPSEC functionality. You can use it for site to site VPNs using Preshared Keys, certificates, or other back-end auth mechanisms. In this setup, I’ll keep it simple and just use a Pre-Shared Key (PSK). A PSK with id and password would be good enough for most people who want to securely access a small or home network.

Edit the file /etc/ipsec.conf so that it looks like this
SANITY CHECK: Make sure you keep the spacing intact under the config headers and conn headers. You might get format errors without it…

version 2.0

config setup

include /etc/ipsec.d/*.conf

Edit the /etc/ipsec.secrets file and add in the following to the bottom of the file:

include /etc/ipsec.d/*.secrets

Now lets setup the files that define the Connection.
Create/edit a file and call it /etc/ipsec.d/road-warrior.conf

conn L2TP-PSK-noNAT


Next, Create/edit a file called /etc/ipsec.d/road-warrior.secrets

IP.ADDRESS.OF.SERVER %any: PSK "YourPreSharedKey"

Next, for OPENSWAN to function correctly, you need to run to following at the bash prompt:

for each in /proc/sys/net/ipv4/conf/*
echo 0 > $each/accept_redirects
echo 0 > $each/send_redirects

echo 1 > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/ip_forward

To verify the OPENSWAN config use the IPSEC VERIFY command. Your output should match the output below.

root@opk-dfw-vpn01:/etc/ipsec.d# ipsec verify
Checking your system to see if IPsec got installed and started correctly:
Version check and ipsec on-path                                 [OK]
Linux Openswan U2.6.37/K3.2.0-51-virtual (netkey)
Checking for IPsec support in kernel                            [OK]
 SAref kernel support                                           [N/A]
 NETKEY:  Testing XFRM related proc values                      [OK]
Checking that pluto is running                                  [OK]
 Pluto listening for IKE on udp 500                             [OK]
 Pluto listening for NAT-T on udp 4500                          [OK]
Checking for 'ip' command                                       [OK]
Checking /bin/sh is not /bin/dash                               [WARNING]
Checking for 'iptables' command                                 [OK]
Opportunistic Encryption Support                                [DISABLED]

Lastly, restart the IPSEC service

/etc/init.d/ipsec restart


Install L2TP

Next up we need to install an L2TP package. L2TP works with IPSEC in that L2TP provides the Tunnel, where IPSEC provides the encryption.

Install the L2TP package:

sudo aptitude install xl2tpd

Edit the /etc/xl2tpd/xl2tpd.conf

ipsec saref = yes

[lns default]
ip range =  
local ip =
refuse chap = yes
refuse pap = yes
require authentication = yes
ppp debug = yes
pppoptfile = /etc/ppp/options.xl2tpd
length bit = yes

The IP range is used by the L2tp Tunnel. You want to be sure that this range does not overlap with any internal network subnet. The Server IP address should not be part of the ip range.


Install PPP

The final piece of this setup is the user authentication. Every user can share a PreSharedKey, but each user should have a unique ID/PW.

Install PPP

sudo aptitude install ppp

Edit/create /etc/ppp/options.xl2tpd

asyncmap 0
name l2tpd
lcp-echo-interval 30
lcp-echo-failure 4

Change the DNS servers to fit your needs. These servers are public, but you could just as easily use your private DNS in there as well.

Now add users by editing /etc/ppp/chap-secrets

# Secrets for authentication using CHAP
# client        server  secret                  IP addresses
user1           l2tpd   user1password           *
user2           l2tpd   user2password           *

sudo /etc/init.d/xl2tpd restart

Now setup your remote device with the proper servername, PSK, and id/pw and give it a test.

Final Note, if your OpenSwan doesn’t startup correctly after a reboot, you probably need to add the following to run on startup:

Edit /etc/rc.local to contain:

iptables --table nat --append POSTROUTING --jump MASQUERADE
echo 1 > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/ip_forward
for each in /proc/sys/net/ipv4/conf/*
echo 0 > $each/accept_redirects
echo 0 > $each/send_redirects
/etc/init.d/ipsec restart


If you run into trouble:

  • Look at the logs. “tail -f /var/log/syslog /var/log/auth.log” These will give you a lot of insight.
  • Double check that the ports are forwarded. The logs would show an inbound connection of some kind if the ports are open.
  • Double check the PSK matches on client and server
  • From logsd, Server Sends MR2 and waits for MI3 forever indicated ports are partially open, check the perimeter device.
  • The Command IPSEC whack –status” gives you a lot if instant info on the configuration. Plus it’s nice output to GREP for other scripts.

Finally, here are some little facts that threw me for a loop the first time I played with openswan and I wished someone would have pointed out to me when I started:

  • in the road-warrior.conf file, Right and Left simply differentiate the 2 sides of the VPN. You could switch the values for left and right without any issues. There is no difference.
  • Traffic leaving the OpenSwan server into the internal network will masquerade as the Server’s IP. All VPN traffic will look like it originates from the Server if you take a packet capture from any internal target.
  • You can have many *.conf files and *.secrets files as needed. You can mix Road Warrior confs with Site to site confs on the same host. Each with it’s own secrets file. No problem.

Good Luck.

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